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Letter from Chip Northrup

Kudos to Canadarago Lake Communities

Richfield Springs, near Canadarago Lake, is taking the lead locally on mitigating harmful algal blooms by curtailing the nutrients that are discharged from septic tanks—nitrogen and phosphorus—into the lake.

We know why “the grass is always greener over the septic tank.” Toxic algae thrives in nutrient-rich water. As permitted, septic tanks discharge nutrients into the groundwater, and those fertilizers find their way into the lake where they help drive toxic algae blooms.

To reduce toxic algae infestations, the supply of fertilizer should be curtailed. This is not a local phenomenon: The freshwater ponds at Cape Code are toxic with algae due to constant fertilization by the septic systems that surround them. When the toxic algae wins, the lake dies, fish die, pets die. People just get sick.

The Canadarago communities and people are taking the first steps to reduce the feeding of toxic algae by addressing the discharge from the septic systems in the lake’s watershed. They are not just proposing to monitor the toxic blooms, they are proposing to starve them. Bravo.

The Otsego Lake Association and the Otsego Watershed Committee are working on plans that can put the Biological Field Station’s toxic algae monitoring program to productive use—with an updated watershed plan that can address how to starve the algae infestations.

Chip Northrup


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